The Environmental Impact of Smoking

Share this:

Nas Smoking by psicko on Deviant Art

Everyone is aware of the implications on your health when it comes to smoking. Lung cancer, diabetes, a compromised immune system are just a few of the side effects. But what about the wider impact on the environment? It might be a lot bigger than you think. From the trees needed to create tobacco, to the packing itself and the waste produced afterwards there’s more than just the smoker that this habit affects. Aside from just the health of your lungs and heart (as if that isn’t enough) there’s also a risk to other people, your home and your environment as a whole. There are plenty of reasons to put down the smokes and switch to something safer.

Second hand smoke

Even if you’re not smoking yourself, “passive smoking” (inhaling smoke from someone else’s cigarette when you’re in close proximity) results in 600,000 deaths annually. Of these, 165,000 are children. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals that are known irritants and carcinogens. A few on the list include the likes of carbon monoxide, tar, arsenic and ammonia. Smoking is banned in enclosed areas for a reason. Environmental tobacco smoke produces fine particulate matter which is easily absorbed through the lungs and irritates the eyes. It’s the most dangerous element of air pollution for health. A recent study compared the pollution created from running a diesel engine for 30 minutes to 3 filter cigarettes in the same sized room to see how they stacked up. When the results came in, they showed that cigarettes created 10 times more air pollution than the diesel engine. Collectively, cigarette smoking creates 2.6 million tonnes of CO2 and 5.2 million tonnes of methane into the atmosphere every year, contributing to the factors affecting global warming.

Not to mention where there’s smoke, there’s fire. In the UK alone, 2,800 house fires a year are caused by cigarettes. Recently, the London Fire Brigade have voiced their support of swapping out cigarettes for e-cigs to help reduce the number of preventable fires in the UK. Currently there have been no recorded fires attributed to vapes and when charged properly, they’re obviously a much safer option. If you fall asleep with a vape in your hand the worst thing you’ll probably do is wake up with a sticky sofa if your tank leaks.

When it comes to the second hand vapour aspect, you won’t have any issues there either. Unlike the concoction of chemicals released from burning cigarettes, e-cigarette vapour is totally safe. When it comes to the byproducts in the vapour that you exhale – their number is so low you can count them on one hand. All that’s in vapour is water, CO2 (which you exhale as a normal biological function anyway), flavouring and minor levels of nicotine (assuming you’re using a liquid with nicotine in it). Not to mention, vaping inside is totally fine for your home and furniture. Because it doesn’t have tar or ammonia in it, the smell won’t stick to your walls and curtains. In any case – there’s worse things your home could smell of than a custard tart or fruit salad.

How cigarettes are made

The actual production of cigarettes creates a lot of waste and requires a lot of resources too. One whole tree is required for just a carton and a half of cigarettes (that’s 300 total). The amount needed for creating the paper in them, let alone in the curing process required to produce tobacco means 500 millions trees are cut down every year. It’s a major factor in deforestation globally. Add to this the international shipping of cigarettes and you’re looking at a seriously heavy carbon footprint. With smoking decreasing in developed countries and increasing in developing countries, they’re having to be sent further afield than previously too.

When it comes to pollution, cigarettes are the most common piece of litter worldwide with an estimated 5 trillion (that’s twelve zeros) thrown on the streets and down drains every year. The butts themselves are made of cellulose acetate – a type of plastic. Because their job is to capture pollutants when you’re smoking, they hold a lot of toxins inside them. So, when they end up in waterways they begin to leach chemicals like lead and arsenic into the environment. It takes them up to 12 years to break down, but as they aren’t biodegradable they put more nano-particles into the earth. They often affect wildlife too – getting eaten by fish and birds mistaking them for food.

The actual packaging around cigarettes (think of the cellophane wrapper, the paper inside, the cardboard box) also creates about 1.8 million tonnes of waste per year. Even the parts that can be recycled often just end up in landfill.

E-cigarettes are a lot more efficient when it comes to packaging and how much use you get out of them for the waste they create. On average most people get about 20 puffs per cigarette. From a typical coil you can get up to 1500 (sometimes even more), making one coil equivalent to about 75 cigarettes, saving nearly 4 boxes worth of smokes.

With TPD, e-liquids are now required to have labels stating they contain nicotine however they could also say “no trees were harmed in the making of this”. With only three ingredients present (four, if you include nicotine), it’s easily created in mass. Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine are made in huge batches in a lab – meaning it’s also very consistent as far as regulations and production. The nicotine (whether that be free base or nic salts) are also made in labs and carefully regulated. A huge amount of vape liquids are manufactured right here in the UK – from Dinner Lady to Vampire Vapes to Attitude your e-liquids can be sourced from (almost) just up the road. This means less shipping and therefore less air miles and a lower carbon footprint.

Everything creates a certain amount of rubbish, but with a vape, many parts are either reusable or recyclable – sometimes both. The batteries can be recycled at designated facilities and e-liquid bottles can just go in your regular household recycling bins when they’ve reached the end of their life. When it comes to atomisers, with the invention of new technology, only the core of the atomiser (the coil) needs to be replaced meaning less waste is created.

So there you have it – aside from your own health you’ll be doing your family, your home and the world at large a favour if you quit smoking. If you’re ready to make the switch, Vape Superstore can help you with everything you need to get started, their Guide to Quit Smoking is a great starting point, or simply pop into one of their stores for a personal recommendation.